Two associations that lobby the Legislature on behalf of counties will get only half the dues they requested from Spokane County this year, saving taxpayers nearly $52,000.
And the county is dropping its membership in the National Association of Counties, saving $6,194. That association lobbies Congress and tracks federal regulations.
In addition, county departments cut memberships to some other professional associations, saving another $15,407.
“This is a good start,” said Jim Lindow, the county’s chief administrative officer, who met with department heads in recent weeks, trying to determine which memberships benefit the county and which do not.
“Sometimes I think we get a little complacent about the dues we pay each year.”
The county’s 1997 budget for association dues was $247,000 before the cuts were made.
That figure was deceptively high, however, because some of the money went toward permits, or to help fund agencies. For instance, the county pays $40,000 of the $1.1 million budget for the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, which coordinates transportation work.
Lindow found that some associations are well worth the dues the county pays.
For instance, the state Coalition for Clean Water helped convince the Legislature to guarantee $75 million over the next 20 years for sewer work in Spokane County. The county’s membership costs $4,800.
But Lindow could find no such proof that the county was getting its money’s worth from the National Association of Counties, the Washington State Association of Counties or the state Association of County Officials.
Commissioners decided Tuesday to pay the state Association of Counties $29,459 instead of the $58,919 requested. The organization represents commissioners from all 39 counties.
The Association of County Officials will get $22,459 instead of $44,919. It represents auditors, assessors, treasurers and other elected administrative officials.
Representatives of those two associations, which base dues on each county’s population, argued that the county gets a good return on its investment.
The Association of Counties, for instance, helped persuade the Legislature to give counties “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to fight crime in recent years, said association president Gary Lowe.
But Commissioner Kate McCaslin said the association failed to contact commissioners about a recent hearing on a bill allowing local officials to tap Spokane Transit Authority’s $40 million reserve account to help pave streets.
Those who testified overwhelmingly opposed the bill. McCaslin said if she had known about the hearing, “I would have been there” to support the bill.
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